Indianapolis—Monday, union members chanted "no right to work" as lawmakers entered the hearing room at the Indiana Statehouse. Room 156A and the hallway outside located in the basement was standing room only as a House Committee prepared to debate the controversial bill.
Union workers and supporters filled all three main floors at the Indiana Statehouse Monday, protesting several bills they call "anti-union" and "anti-middle class." Most of the energy was directed against HB 1028, referred to as the "right to work" bill. The bill would guarantee an employee's right not to join a union at a unionized company. It would also prohibit agreements that prevent an employer from hiring non-union workers.
Union members and supporters claim the bill would lower wages and destroy the middle class in Indiana. Bill sponsor Representative Jerry Torr (R-Carmel) told Fox59 News jobs and industry will flock to the state if Indiana curbed collective bargaining rights. AFL-CIO spokeswoman Allison Luthe said the legislation would cost Indiana good paying jobs.
"It's a no-win situation for everybody," said IBEW member Mike Williams. "Because union and non-union, their wages will go down in this state."
Supporters of the legislation say it is pro-business, and would keep more jobs from leaving the state. However, critics say the result will be out-of-state workers, willing to make less money, taking jobs away from union members.
"The last state was Oklahoma that went right to work," said Local 120 member Ward Daniels. "And a laborer's wage was about 15 something an hour plus benefits, now it's not even 10 dollars an hour, total package."
The so-called "Right to Work Bill" is one of several labor-oriented bills being protested Monday. Senate Bill 525 is under fire by teachers unions, because it would limit collective bargaining in teacher contracts. House Bill 1585 is also drawing union protests because it would eliminate automatic payroll deductions for union dues but the overwhelming amount of dissent is calling for a "no" vote on HB 1028.
"What I'm trying to do is bring jobs to Indiana," said Rep. Torr. "We have lost manufacturing jobs in Indiana because we are not a right to work state."
Indiana is one of several states including Wisconsin and Ohio that are considering new collective bargaining legislation. Hundreds of protesters have been gathering in Madison, Wisconsin for nearly a week asking newly elected Republican Governor Scott Walker to drop the plan they consider to be an assault on workers' rights.
Indiana AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott told the committee the bill would be a "political payoff to wealthy campaign donors" and that "Right to Work" states are by and large poorer with a lower standard of living.
Governor Mitch Daniels has said he wants lawmakers to focus instead on passing a new two-year budget. Other bills before the legislation would curb collective bargaining rights for teachers.
The committee passed the bill by a vote of 8-5. It will now go before the full House.